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Diseases, Parasites and Predators

Management and Control

Occurrence of disease and parasites in farmed fish is mainly as a result of poor husbandry.
Disease causing organisms are always in the environment fish live in and they cause few
problems. The pathogens naturally exist in a stable equilibrium with their hosts until this
balance is disturbed through environmental changes and anthropogenic activities.
Fish are normally stressed through inadequate dietary or environmental conditions. The
water quality parameters such as pH, temperature, dissolved oxygen may lead to outbreak
of disease pathogens and parasites.

Fish stressors:
Some fish stressors that lead to diseases that need to be avoided are;
Poor handling of fish is a major cause of both bacterial and parasitic infections.
Translocation of fingerlings/fry from one place to another without proper care can
spread diseases and parasites.
Increased nutrient levels due to intensive cage culture promote proliferation of
Pollution due to high levels of ammonia predisposes fish to succumb to large
numbers of parasites. Human faeces may be a source of gut parasites especially to
common carp.
Damages of fish by predators lead to secondary bacterial or fungi infections. The
predators especially birds and mammals play an important role in life cycles of
certain parasites.
Disease, parasites or pathogens may enter fish through gills, penetration of egg membrane,
ingestion, rupture of skin, wounds or through the digestive tract.
Note that ; Tilapias are more resistant to viral, bacterial and parasitic diseases than other
commonly cultured fishes. Few diseases and mortalities have been reported in semi
intensive tilapia farms in Kenya. This could due to low stocking densities in these
systems. Lymphocystis, columnaris, whirling disease, and hemorrhagic septicemia may
cause high mortality, but these problems occur most frequently at water temperatures
below 11
C. The most important cause of mortalities is anoxia ( lack of oxygen) resulting
from blooms of algae. Sudden lowering of temperatures to below tolerance levels, which
can happen during the rainy seasons, can lead to problems including mortalities.
Main causes of disease in farmed fish
When fish are not fed with the right food in the right way, nutritional diseases occur.
Some of the main causes of disease are:
Poor feeds and feeding;
Poor quality or contaminated feed,
Exposure to extreme conditions or toxic environments;
Extremes in pH where the water is either too acidic or alkaline
Presence of toxic gases such as ammonia
Lack of dissolved oxygen
Overcrowding and/or behavioural stresses, for example in storage or transport
Improper and/or excessive handling
Toxins in food such as fungal toxins in stored feeds ,pesticide residues etc
Water pollution by agricultural or industrial effluents, sewage effluents, heavy silt
Since prevention is better than cure, it is very important to:
i). Ensure quality and sufficient water supply, with adequate dissolved oxygen and free
of pollution.
ii). Maintain clean pond environment by controlling silting, plants and proper
phytoplankton and zooplankton balance. Regular pond disinfection is recommended.
iii). Keep the fish in stress free conditions by controlling stocking density, keeping
different sizes separate to reduce fighting, providing proper food supply, handling the fish
properly etc
iv). Prevent the entry of disease organisms by:
v). Preventing entry of wild fish by using screens and eradication them from canals and
vi). Ensure that all fish got from outside to the farm are clean without parasites or
vii). Always using good quality feeds
viii). Regular monitoring of the water entering the farm to ensure of its quality
ix). Prevent the spread of disease within the farm by:
x). Controlling predators, particularly birds and mammals
xi). Disinfect ponds regularly to kill both the disease organisms and their intermediate
xii). Avoiding water sharing among ponds
xiii). In case of disease outbreak, remove sick and
xiv). Bury diseased fish with quicklime away from the ponds; carefully treat infected ponds
and disinfect all e dead fish from the ponds immediately
xv). Always disinfect pond and fish handling equipment
Common disease symptoms in fish
Behavioural signs:
Decreased feeding
Weak, lazy or erratic swimming
Floating on water belly up
Roughing against hard surfaces
Crowding/gathering at the inlet
Physical signs:
Gaping mouth
Open sores, lesions, loss of scales, bloated belly
Pale, eroded, swollen, bloody or brownish gills
Abnormally folded or eroded fins
Cloudy or distended eyes
Presence of disease organisms on skin, gills, fins
Fish diseases can either be:
(i) Bacterial - which causes diseases like fin rot and tail rot
(ii) Fungal infections - wooly or cottony patches on the surface of fish, and gill
rot causing asphyxia.
(iii) Parasitic
Ectoparasites- Those that occur outside the fish body for example those that
cause Black spot, white spot, fish louse and Nematode.
Endoparasites - Those that get into the body of the fish like the Contraceacum,
and the Ligula intestinalis.
(iv) Dietary - High carbohydrate levels in trout feeds, lack of proteins and lipids will
result to liver tumour.
Some common fish diseases and their prevention
Pathogen Symptom Prevention
Cottony grey-white or brown
patches on the skin
Proper fish handling
Avoid handling fish in cold
Low organic matter in water
Black spots
Yellowish cysts on gills
Control snails and control
predators like birds.
Remove infected fish.
Loss of appetite.
Fin and tail rot.
Pale gills
Fluid in abdomen
Improved water quality
Round worm in spiral shape
near gills
Not really a problem for fish
health but leads to consumer
Fish try to scrap their bodies
on hard surfaces (flashing)
Salt, potassium Permanganate
or formalin bath.
Keep water temperature near
optimum range for that
species of fish.
Nutritional Diseases:
Cause Symptom Prevention
1. Lack of
-Poor growth.
-Caudal fin erosion.
-Loss of appetite.
-Feed protein rich food e.g. soya
beans, slaughterhouse by-products,
fish meal.
2. Lack of lipids -Poor growth -Feed with energy-rich foods
The following should be followed in treatment of infected ponds.
Ponds with infections should be drained and badly infected fish culled.
Dry the pond under the sun for about seven days
Dampen the pond bottom
Spread Lime (Calcium carbonate) evenly over entire surface of pond bottom at the
rate of 1500 kg/Ha.
Wait for 15 days then restock the pond with healthy stocks.
Some common chemicals for use in fish farming
Limes and agro-industrial by-products e.g. rice bran and molasses: Pests control in
drained ponds
Organic poisons such as rotenone can control pests in filled ponds
Household bleach is a good disinfectant of non-metallic equipment and working areas.
Chlorine bleach liquid and powder can be used as a strong disinfectant for fish handling
Common salt is cheap and easily available. Kills several disease organisms and have
positive effects on the fish by stimulating appetite and increasing mucus secretion,
improving resistance to handling.
Formalin is toxic to fish particularly in soft water because it lowers dissolved oxygen levels,
make sure treatment water is well oxygenated.
Some common fish predators and their control measures:
Predator Type of fish eaten Control measure
Insects and insect
Juvenile fish and eggs
and fish just hatched.
i). Oil emulsion to prevent aerial
ii). Use of fish that feed on insect larvae
especially those that have gills and can
remain in the bottom.
Frogs and toads
juveniles of tilapia and
i). Fence with frog proof wire mesh.
ii). Clear bush around pond. Screen
both in and outlets.
iii). Use traps. Adult catfish and bass eat
all types of fish i). Use screen in the inlets and outlets.
ii). Do pond draining periodically
destroy larval and
juvenile fish
i). Clear bush around the pond and
fence properly.
alligators and large
All types of fish
i). Proper fencing and keeping dense
bushes cut down.
Turtles prey on catfish Fencing around pond with wire mesh,
Wading birds e.g.,
Herons and egrets
Diving birds.
Kingfisher, fish
All types of fish and at all
stages especially in
shallow waters.
Cormorants feed on fish
just after the fish are fed-
when they are most
i). Proper fencing all round and then
above with netting material or manila
ropes/strings on poles with bright coloured
cloth or metal crossed over the pond.
ii). cover ponds with nets or wire mesh,
use flash guns, windmills that revolves and
flash brilliantly and bells to scare the birds
a way.
iii). The birds can also be actively
discouraged by destroying their nests
Prey on large fish at night
killing more than they
can eat. They burrow and
live under the roots of
trees near the water.
Otters are very clever
They can even open
latches on gates.
i). Proper fencing around the ponds.
ii). The otters can also be trapped using
special otter traps set in their passages.
iii). Guard by use of trained dogs.
iv). Fence the pond half way across
giving allowance for fish to pass through
but not he otter thus providing hiding
places for fish.
Man (theft)
All types of fish. This is
also considered among
the major predators
through which fish are
Extremely difficult to control and is most
common in cage culture and other
intensive fish farming.
Can however be controlled by
i). Employing security personnel
ii). Use of trained dogs
iii). Hidden obstruction to prevent pond
iv). Fence the farm and lock securely.
v). Burglar alarms or electrified fence
If the situation is bad, then trapping or shooting can be used as the last resort in
cases of birds and otters but in consultation with the relevant authorities for
example the Kenya Wildlife Authority
Be very careful when poisoning predators, humans and non target animals can be affected.